Competition: MLS Playoffs (Eastern Conference Semifinal Second Leg) – New York Red Bulls vs. DC United
Venue: Red Bull Arena – Sunday, November 8 – 15:00 ET (20:00 GMT)
Match Odds: New York Red Bulls 4/9 – Draw 7/2 – DC United 6/1
The Red Bulls returned home from DC last weekend with an excellent 1-0 win that puts them firmly in the driving seat in this tie, knowing they’ve scored a crucial away goal.
Dax McCarty’s headed finish following Sacha Kljestan’s floated free-kick in the 72nd minute gave New York the advantage, and Jesse Marsch will be confident his side can see out the job on home soil.
The victory against DC was the perfect way for the Red Bulls to follow on from sealing the Supporters’ Shield title, showing they mean business and that they haven’t lost their focus – it also marked their third consecutive win.
DC United looked tired and slightly bereft of ideas as they struggled to break down a strong Red Bulls team – not even their usually reliable home form could help them salvage anything from the first leg.
Ben Olsen may be tempted to send his players out with orders to attack straight from the off in the hope of creating a realistic chance to progress, although that’s a tactic that could play into the hands of a New York side so dangerous on the counter-attack.
DC have lost seven of their last ten games, so it may pay for them to try and keep things tight and hope they can pinch a goal. It’s a tough task but if they have any aspirations of winning the MLS Cup, then now is the time to really stand up and be counted.
New York Red Bulls haven’t lost any of the four meetings with DC in 2015 (W3, D1) and the last time they lost at home to DC was in December 2012.
New York Red Bulls will be without regular centre-back, Damien Perrinelle, for the rest of the season after he suffered a knee injury in the first leg. Ronald Zubar will be expected to deputise in his absence. Defender Chris Duvall (leg) and striker Anatole Abang (hamstring) both remain out.
DC United have doubts over the fitness of midfielders Chris Pontius (hamstring) and Michael Farfan (undisclosed), as well as defender Sean Franklin (achilles). All three could miss this crucial second leg, while Chris Korb (knee), Davy Arnaud (concussion) and Jared Jeffrey (face) remain out.
New York Red Bulls’ last five: W/L/W/W/W
DC United’s last five: W/W/L/W/L
Key Stat: New York Red Bulls have scored at least one goal in each of their last 24 games.
Key Player: Mike Grella – He has perhaps been somewhat an unsung hero in 2015. With great performances from the likes of BWP, Lloyd Sam and Sacha Kljestan taking the limelight, it’s also worth noting how crucial Grella has been. He’s scored nine goals and made seven assists this season, making him a vital cog in the Red Bulls machine.
New York Red Bulls 2-1 DC United – You can’t help feeling that New York Red Bulls have one foot in the conference final, although there is still hard work to be done. DC United certainly face an uphill struggle, but they will throw everything they have at this game as there’s nothing to lose. Ultimately though, the Red Bulls should see it through.